Food is like fuel to your system and provides your body’s cells with energy they need to function properly. What you eat will go through a complex process before your body could use any nutrients present in it. This is when your digestive system comes into play. It makes use of what you eat or drink and turns them into building blocks your body needs. Sometimes, your digestive system fails to work efficiently mainly due to certain digestive system diseases. Some of these diseases are not that serious, while others require immediate attention.
Major Digestive System Diseases
Your digestive system is made of the digestive tract or the alimentary canal. However, other organs like the liver and pancreas also play a big role in digestion. The digestive tract is the long tube of organs, including the stomach, esophagus, and intestines. These organs run from the mouth to the anus – your digestive system can be about 9 meters long. Many diseases of digestive system can affect the normal functioning of this system. There can be problems with the esophagus, intestines, stomach lining, or even with liver and gallbladder. These problems can affect the way your digestive system works.
Problems with the Esophagus
You may experience different problems related to the esophagus. These problems are either congenital or non-congenital.
- Congenital conditions: These problems are usually present at birth. The most common problem is tracheoesophageal fistula, which refers to a connection between the trachea and the esophagus. Normally, there should be a connection. Some babies are born with esophageal atresia, which means the esophagus does not open into the stomach but instead comes to a dead end. It requires surgery.
- Non-congenital conditions: These problems develop after birth. Esophagitis is a good example–it is inflammation of the esophagus caused by certain medications, infections, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The esophageal sphincter has to close after the food enters the stomach, but it does not happen when you develop GERD.
Problems with the Stomach and Intestines
- Diarrhea and constipation are probably the most common digestive system diseases caused by issues related to the stomach and intestines. When muscle contractions move the food too quickly through the intestines, you will develop diarrhea. If it moves too slowly, you will develop constipation.
Other common problems with the stomach and intestines include the following:
- Gastrointestinal infections: They can be viral, bacterial or parasitical infections causing abdominal pain, diarrhea, cramps, and vomiting.
- Appendicitis: It refers to inflammation of the appendix and usually requires surgery. The most common symptoms are fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, and loss of appetite.
- Gastritis and peptic ulcers: A bacterium called helicobacter pylori is responsible for this condition. Overuse of certain medications may damage the protective mucus coating of the stomach, making it possible for stomach acids to cause peptic ulcers. Medications are available to treat these conditions completely.
- Inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBD): It is chronic inflammation of the intestines and can be of two types, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Medications are available to treat both types of IBDs, but you may need surgery to remove damaged or inflamed areas of the intestine.
- Celiac disease: This autoimmune disease triggers an allergic reaction when you eat a protein called gluten, which is in rye, wheat, barley, and a wide range of foods. You will experience abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating, exhaustion, and depression when you eat food with gluten. Avoiding food that contains gluten is the only way to deal with the issue.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): This intestinal disorder affects the colon and causes symptoms like bloating, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and constipation. You can relieve symptoms by reducing stress, changing eating habits, and making lifestyle changes.
Problems with the Pancreas, Liver and Gallbladder
In addition to typical digestive system diseases, problems with the pancreas, liver, and gallbladder can also affect the functioning of your digestive system. The most common issues include the following:
- Cystic fibrosis: This chronic, inherited illness affects the lungs and produces thick mucus that sometimes blocks the passageways in the pancreas. This also keeps digestive juices from entering the intestines, which in turn causes several digestive problems.
- Hepatitis: It leads to the inflammation of the liver and causes serious symptoms. It can be viral hepatitis, like hepatitis A, B, or C, all of which are highly contagious.
- Gallstones: The gallbladder may become inflamed due to gallstones. The condition is called cholecystitis. It indirectly affects the functioning of your digestive system.
How Does the Digestive System Work?
Everyone knows the basics of digestion. You eat something and it goes into your stomach through a tube. Your stomach has acids that break down food and makes it easier for your intestines to absorb nutrients. The rest of it goes out of your body through the anus. Here is more about how this system works so that you know better what went wrong and caused digestive system diseases.
The process begins in the mouth when your salivary glands help you feel the taste and texture of what you eat. Your teeth tear and chop what you eat and saliva provides enough moisture to facilitate easy swallowing. Your saliva contains a digestive enzyme called amylase that breaks down carbs in the food while it is still in the mouth.
When you swallow the food, it moves into the pharynx or throat, which is about 5 inches long. Food continues to travel down from the throat and enters a muscular tube in the chest known as the esophagus. Your food slowly moves towards the stomach due to the waves of muscle contractions known as peristalsis. At the end of the esophagus, there is a muscular valve or ring called a sphincter that lets food enter the stomach. The valve closes once the food enters the stomach. It keeps food and stomach acids from moving back up in the esophagus.
Your stomach muscles will get to work and mix the food with acids and enzymes. This will turn food into small, digestible pieces. Glands in your stomach lining produce digestive juices and acid for proper digestion of food. These glands produce up to 2.8l of digestive juices daily.
The small particles of food then move into the small intestine for further digestion and absorption of nutrients. Your intestines absorb nutrients and release them into the bloodstream. The blood takes these nutrients to the rest of the body. The waste parts of food then travel into your large intestine and finally go out of the body as feces.